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PM Modi arrives in Kabul, to inaugurate Afghan Parliament built by India

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Kabul on Friday during which he is expected to hold talks with Afghan leadership, including President Ashraf Ghani, and inaugurate the Parliament building which has been constructed by India at a cost of USD 90 million.

Modi who flew in the wee hours from Moscow, where he had annual summit talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, was received by Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar and deputy Foreign minister Hekmat Karzai.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted:

From Russia to Afghanistan. A pre-dawn arrival in Kabul begins a day of engagements w/ another ‘dost’

— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) December 25, 2015

PM @narendramodi received on arrival in Kabul by NSA Atmar, Dy FM Karzai and Afghan Ambassador to India Abdali

— Vikas Swarup (@MEAIndia) December 25, 2015

On his arrival Modi said, “delighted to be in Kabul among friends. Will meet Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Abdullah Abdullah and former President Hamid Karzai”.

Modi will be holding talks with Afghan leaders on key bilateral issues, including security co-operation and discuss the ways to help war-torn country where India has committed over $2 billion in assistance. The prime minister will also be inaugurating the Parliament building and expected to address the Afghan lawmakers.

The Parliament building project, which was initially conceived at a cost of $45 million, was started by India in 2007 as a mark of friendship and cooperation to help rebuild Afghanistan.

Situated between historic landmarks King’s Palace “Darulaman” and the Queen’s Palace — the building has elements of Mughal and modern architecture and has Asia’s largest dome as its key feature. The building will house the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House) with a seating capacity of 294, a 190-seat Meshrano Jirga (Upper House), besides other facilities like conference hall and press room.

Prior to  Prime Minister’s visit, India has delivered three Mi 25 attack helicopters to Afghanistan, in what is seen as a shift in its strategy towards the strife-torn country.

Defence sources said that three such choppers have already been delivered to the Afghan government, which will boost its capability against Taliban terrorists.

While Afghanistan has repeatedly sought India’s support in beefing up its military’s fighting capability in terms of machinery, India had shied away till now. The development came after the recent visit of Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar to New Delhi. Afghanistan has till now been dependent on the US air support in its operations against the Taliban.

Disaster

New York reports 731 death in one day

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New York Coronavirus Case

New York, April 8 : The US state of New York lost 731 lives to COVID-19 from Monday to Tuesday, bringing the state’s death toll to 5,489 while marking the deadliest 24 hours yet since the pandemic took hold here, said Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Behind every one of those numbers is an individual, is a family, is a mother, is a father, is a sister, is a brother. So a lot of pain again today for many New Yorkers and they’re in our thoughts and prayers,” said Cuomo at his daily briefing on coronavirus on Tuesday, reported Xinhua news agency.

Meanwhile, the numbers of daily incubations and ICU admissions declined for another day, and the state is reaching a plateau in the total number of hospitalizations, which are all “good news,” said Cuomo.

The number of deaths “is a lagging indicator to the number of hospitalizations,” explained Cuomo, emphasizing that the flattening of the curve is still just a projection.

“It still depends on what we do and what we do will affect those numbers, ” he noted.

The governor said he’s thinking about restarting the economy with a smart approach, first with those who have resolved from the disease and developed immunity.

“That would mean that you’re no longer contagious and you can’t catch the virus because you have the antibodies in your system, which means you can get to work and go back to school, you can do whatever you want,” said Cuomo.

He said the state developed an antibody testing regimen and will be working with the Food and Drug Administration to bring it to scale.

Meanwhile, testing for determining who have been infected remains significant for slowing down the spread. Cuomo announced the state will invest in private companies to bring rapid COVID-19 testing to scale and accelerate testing capacity.

The governor added that the Navy hospital ship Comfort docking at New York Harbor will be used for treating COVID-19 patients, after the governor made a plea to President Donald Trump on Monday.

The ship’s original 1,000 beds will be scaled down to 500 as COVID-19 patients need more space in treatment, which “is still a tremendous benefit,” said Cuomo.

As of Monday afternoon US Eastern Time, New York state reported 138,863 COVID-19 cases, topping the country’s 50 states. Over 79,000 cases were recorded in New York City, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

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Disaster

Italy Coronavirus: 135,586 Cases and 17,127 Deaths

The death toll on Saturday was 681, bringing the total to 15,362 fatalities since the pandemic first broke out in northern Italy on Feb. 21.

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Coronavirus Treatment

Rome, April 8 : Italy registered 135,586 confirmed cases of coronavirus, including 17,127 fatalities, according to fresh figures from the Civil Protection Department managing the COVID-19 emergency.

Of these, the new active infections registered against Monday were 880, which brought to total 94,067 infections nationwide. Recoveries kept rising, with a relevant number of 1,555 more people cured compared to the previous day, reaching 24,392 in total, reported Xinhua news agency on Tuesday.

The number of new recoveries widely exceeded that of new active infections on a daily basis.

“The decrease in the trend of new infections is being confirmed, and the number of 880 is the lowest (daily) rise we have seen since March 10,” Civil Protection Department Chief Angelo Borrelli stressed at a press conference.

Borelli, who also serves as extraordinary commissioner in the COVID-19 emergency, explained the daily number of recoveries registered on Tuesday was “the second highest in absolute terms since the epidemic has begun.”

There was an increase of 3,039 cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the overall cases to 135,586.

Of those who have tested positive so far, 28,718 are hospitalized in normal wards, 3,792 are in intensive care units, and the remaining 61,557 under home isolation.

Borrelli also confirmed that the pressure on Italian hospitals was lessening, and especially “for intensive care units, where we have now 106 fewer patients (compared to the previous day).”

The death toll grew by 604 over the last 24 hours. New fatalities registered on a daily basis had been 636 on Monday, and 525 on Sunday.

“Finally, it seems that we are beginning to see a decrease in new cases,” confirmed Giovanni Rezza, Director of Infectious Diseases Department at the National Health Institute (ISS), while addressing the press conference alongside the commissioner.

“In our epidemic curve, after a plateau phase, there seems to be a fall … the curve tends to bend down,” he explained.

However, the epidemiologist warned caution, stressing the ISS experts would rather “wait for tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, before eventually heaving a sigh of relief.”

Borrelli also praised the national health staff for its non-stop contribution in the fight against the new coronavirus. “My thoughts are with medical professionals … who are making their best to protect all of us,” he said.

“My hug also goes to all relatives of the medical professionals who died in the fight against the COVID-19,” he added.

As of Tuesday, some 26 nurses and 94 doctors have died since the pandemic hit Italy’s northern regions on Feb. 21, according to data provided by the respective professional associations.

Some five physicians lost their lives over the last 24 hours, the country’s Federation of Medical Associations (Fnomceo) said.

As for nurses, the national staff registered 6,549 infections, with an increase of 1,049 cases compared to last Saturday, Italy’s ANSA news agency reported, citing data by the National Federation of Professional Nurses Orders (Fnopi).

In a statement released for the World Health Day — which is being marked on April 7 — the Fnopi stressed nurses are “the backbone of every health system.”

According to the latest data available by the National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT), Italy counted 351,008 nurses across the country in 2017, with a rate of 5.8 nurses per 1,000 inhabitants.

Also on Tuesday, Italian President Sergio Mattarella issued a declaration to mark the 70th edition of the World Health Day, renewing a call for international solidarity.

“So many deaths and sufferings have made clearer than ever the value of health as an essential component of the right to life, and as a stronghold to preserve and boost solidarity among peoples, states, and continents,” Mattarella wrote.

He recalled this year’s World Health Day was dedicated to nurses and obstetricians and praised the generosity and professionalism of which health professionals were proving capable.

“It is precisely the universal value of the right to health that calls us to a commitment, to a global co-responsibility, putting aside national egoism and privileges of any kind,” Mattarella stressed.

He called for this effort in order to give global cooperation “a great impetus of strength with regard to treatments, research, exchange of information, and supply of tools capable of saving lives.”

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Middle East

Palestine warns Israel against annexation policy

The prime minister stressed the need for mobilizing international support for UNRWA to be able to play its vital role during the novel coronavirus crisis, according to the statement.

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Mohammed Ishtaye

Ramallah, April 8 : Palestine warned Israel against pressing ahead with annexation policy amid its process to form a new government.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Ishtaye on Tuesday warned of the danger of an Israeli government coalition favoring the annexation of parts of the West Bank and emphasized the importance of an international role to confront such illegal plans that undermine international law and resolutions and threaten to end the two-state solution, according to a statement by his office, reported Xinhua news agency.

Ishtaye made the remarks in two separate video-conference and telephone meetings with the new Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, and the UN Envoy for the Peace Process in the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov.

They also talked over international support for the efforts of the Palestinian government amidst the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the statement said.

Ishtaye briefed both Lazzarini and Mladenov on the obstacles facing the coronavirus outbreak and ways to alleviate its economic and financial consequences on the government and the Palestinian economy, which is affected by the unilateral Israeli measures against Palestinians and their territory.

The prime minister stressed the need for mobilizing international support for UNRWA to be able to play its vital role during the novel coronavirus crisis, according to the statement.

“We have received promises of aid, few of which have been translated on the ground and we’re awaiting the rest. We will face this pandemic with a comprehensive national plan covering the West Bank, the Gaza strip, and the diaspora,” Ishtaye was quoted as saying.

Palestine declared a state of emergency on March 5, as the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the West Bank, and has taken measures to implement an austere budget, amidst forecasts of a significant negative economic impact.

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